KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – East Tennesseans join thousands of other Americans that are waiting on an agreement by lawmakers, as the weekly $600 added unemployment benefit from the federal government expired Friday.
Even with those bonuses, local nonprofits stepped up to support the unemployed with rent and the job search. Losing that funding only exacerbates the growing problem.
“They need money right now. So we have to figure out how can we get the money from our local government or other organizations,” said Felix Harris, Vice President of Housing and Community Development for the Knoxville Area Urban League.
Harris says over the last few months of the COVID-19 pandemic rental calls have increased 30-40%. That means, the nonprofit is receiving more calls about paying rent, especially when many rent moratoriums expired locally.
“We also have a direct impact because at least that extra support from the unemployment benefits was at least happening with at least some part of the rent, if not all of it. And so now that that’s gone away, you have to worry about not only rent, but worry about food and other supplies,” said Harris.
He said working to find permanent and stable housing is part of Knoxville Area Urban League’s DNA, but the need during the pandemic has grown. Daily, there are calls about job opportunities, rental and eviction concerns.
“Foreclosures are going to pick up after the six month or 12 month forbearance. That’s when that’ll really take up,” said Harris.
The nonprofit and employees, like Harris, call themselves “economic first responders” which means, they work to ensure that anyone who requests their help is given the tools and support to be financially stable.
“As far as housing, because the pandemic has picked up, housing actually has picked up. We have had more calls from renters because the moratorium for big cities is now over. And so now people are worried about that and the people are also worried about their homes being foreclosed on. And so we get a lot of calls from them and we’re trying to help people save their home,” said Harris.
Harris said it’s still too early to tell, based on local data, if the pandemic is impacting minorities or communities disproportionately than others.
“As you know COVID-19 has affected more minorities than it has non-minorities. And we understand that. And we probably understand that most of the the jobs that were lost were probably most of those that were, low wage paying jobs. Which is mostly those of minorities. So I can’t say yet if it has. We haven’t seen the disproportionate.”Felix Harris, Vice President Housing and Community Development Knoxville Area Urban League
The Knoxville Area Urban League is funded through donations. More information on the nonprofit as well as ways to get involved, can be found online.
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